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Symptoms of a Tubal Pregnancy

written by: Rose Kivi • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 9/19/2010

A tubal pregnancy, also called an ectopic pregnancy, is when a fertilized egg attaches inside the fallopian tube instead of inside the uterus. Most often, tubal pregnancy symptoms occur within six to eight weeks after a woman's last menstrual period.

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    Early Symptoms

    Some tubal pregnancy symptoms mimic premenstrual or normal pregnancy symptoms. Other symptoms are more clear indicators that something is not right. The symptoms of tubal pregnancies are:

    • Breast tenderness: May be mistaken for premenstrual or normal pregnancy symptoms.
    • Nausea: May be mistaken as normal pregnancy symptoms.
    • Light vaginal bleeding: Sometimes mistaken for menstruation in women who do not know they are pregnant.
    • Mild cramps on one side of the pelvis
    • Pain in the lower back
    • Pain in the lower abdomen

    Experiencing the above symptoms is not a definite indicator of a tubal pregnancy, but medical attention should be sought to rule it out if they occur.

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    Symptoms of a Fallopian Tube Rupture

    If a tubal pregnancy is not caught in the early stages, the fallopian tube may rupture as the fetus increases in size. The symptoms of a fallopian tube rupture are:

    • Severe, sharp lower abdominal pain that occurs suddenly
    • Pain in the shoulder area
    • Feeling intense pressure in the rectal area
    • Low blood pressure: Caused by internal bleeding from a fallopian tube rupture. The woman may faint or feel like fainting. One in 10 women with internal bleeding caused by a fallopian tube rupture experience low blood pressure, estimates MedlinePlus.
    • Fainting or feeling like fainting: See "low blood pressure" symptom.
    • Shock: A fallopian tube rupture may cause a woman to go into shock. Some symptoms of shock include weakness, feeling dizzy, a fast heart rate, cold and clammy skin and pale skin.

    Go to the emergency room if you experience the above tubal pregnancy symptoms.

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    Diagnosis of Tubal Pregnancy

    If a doctor suspects a tubal pregnancy he will perform a pelvic examination to identify tenderness in the pelvic region. If the doctor suspects a tubal pregnancy after a pelvic examination, other tests may be conducted. There are various tests doctors use to diagnose tubal pregnancies, including blood tests and ultrasounds. A pregnancy test is given to find out if the woman is pregnant. Pregnancy tests come out positive for both tubal and normal pregnancies. One blood test sometimes performed is the HCG blood test, which detects rise in HCG levels, which may help the doctor distinguish a tubal from a normal pregnancy. An ultrasound is another useful test that allows the doctor to view inside the woman's abdomen to identify the location of the fetus.

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    Treatment

    Unfortunately, there is no way to save the fetus in a tubal pregnancy. There is not enough room inside the fallopian tube for the fetus to grow and eventually, if allowed to grow, the fallopian tube ruptures. Not treating a tubal pregnancy can result in death to the mother.

    The most common treatment is surgery to remove the fetus and to repair damage to any damage to the fallopian tube.

    Occasionally, a doctor will prescribe methotrexate instead of performing surgery, if the doctor believes there is no danger that the woman's fallopian tube will rupture in the near future. Methotrexate is a medication that causes the pregnancy to terminate.

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    Disclaimer

    This article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered an exhaustive resource on tubal pregnancies, nor a replacement for medical advice. See a licensed medical professional for a diagnosis and treatment of your symptoms.

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    References

    MedlinePlus: Ectopic Pregnancy: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000895.htm

    Ectopic Pregnancy: A Medical Dictionary, Bibliography, and Annotated Research Guide to Internet References; ICON Health Publications; 2004